Las Vegas is always in motion. Behind the neon and the crowds, cranes are in gear building a continuous line-up of new towers, new rooms, new attractions and new entertainment complexes as far as the city can dream.
Some $18 billion in new construction projects are on the table through 2020 and marching toward a whopping room count just shy of 160,000 with the addition of some 14,000 hotel rooms coming online. Most of those rooms are concentrated within a nine-mile stretch that leads from Mandalay Bay to Downtown Las Vegas.
“What has not changed is Las Vegas remains a unique global destination where there is just a ton of things to do, and at any hour of the day,” says Michael Goldsmith, founder of Las Vegas-based destination business development firm, Magellan. “Every decade or generation thinks Las Vegas is overbuilt and this place or that place will never be successful – but hotel occupancy continues to climb and there is a lot of construction on the books – so much so that Las Vegas will have the most hotel rooms in the world in one place.” Goldsmith brings some perspective; before his latest venture, he was vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) for 17 years.
As the meetings and conventions industry continues to grow, topping $330 billion this year in the US alone, Las Vegas is queuing up for ever more business, starting with an ambitious $860 million expansion project that will add 1.4 million square feet to the Las Vegas Convention Center. The scheduled opening is set for January 2021, just ahead of CES, an event that easily draws 150,000 people to the facility each of its days. A new planned “Convention District” will offer a host of amenities to the location, including a futuristic underground people mover designed and backed by Elon Musk.
Las Vegas hosts more than 24,000 meetings, conventions and trade shows each year, so other properties are following suit: Caesars Entertainment Corp. is in motion with a $375 million conference center called Caesars Forum, scheduled to open in 2020. The 550,000-square-foot facility stands behind the LINQ, Harrah’s and Flamingo on the east side of the Strip, all to be connected by convenient walkways.
Aria Resort added 200,000 square feet of LEED certified meeting space to its convention center recently. Similarly, MGM Grand’s $130 million, 250,000-square-foot conference center expansion recently opened, bringing the venue more than 850,000 square feet in added conference space, including a 22,000-square-foot expansion of Stay Well Meetings, the industry’s first wellness meetings experience.
Wynn Las Vegas is adding the 400,000-square-foot Wynn Convention Center, set to open in March of next year in an area just east of the property tower. It will include a 20,000-square-foot outdoor events pavilion, a new ballroom measuring 83,000 square feet, and a 2,500-square-foot hospitality lounge with a 72-foot video wall. The resort is also revamping its 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed golf course to complement these plans.
But business isn’t everything. And if Las Vegas is about gaming, entertainment and world class dining, it is also now about sports. The former Oakland, now Las Vegas, Raiders are preparing to inhabit the new $1.9 billion Las Vegas Raiders Stadium, a 65,000-seat complex going up a mile from the Strip with a 2020 completion date.
“Las Vegas has been long celebrated as a leading destination for business and leisure travel, welcoming more than 42 million visitors annually,” says John Schreiber, LVCVA vice president of business sales. “Of those travelers, more than 6.5 million will be headed to the destination for a meeting or convention.”
One of the city’s greatest value propositions, Schreiber maintains, is its versatility. “If you can dream it, Las Vegas can make it happen. When it comes to business travel, the opportunities are endless with nearly 160,000 hotel rooms, 12 million square feet of meeting space and three of the top 10 convention centers in the country. When business travelers come to Las Vegas they know there will be no shortage of world-class entertainment opportunities to explore around the clock. We’ve held the honor of being named the top tradeshow destination for 25 consecutive years, hosting around 60 of the largest events in the industry,” he notes.
New Face of Vegas
If your most recent memories of the city are of long-ago visits and being left in a hotel theme park while your parents set out to explore the casinos, Las Vegas is not your parent’s paradise anymore; you really owe yourself a fresh look. Sinatra is best experienced in the wax museum and you can still see the neon – but mostly in the “boneyard” setting north of town. Rather, new “wows” are on the way for leisure visitor and business traveler alike.
The city recently opened AREA15, a mega-space of retail, dining and event settings in an area west of the Strip. The entire 126,000 square foot structure is the brainchild of anchor tenant Meow Wolf and is given to total customization for gatherings, entertainment and experimental art works with an eye for Instagrammable buzz.
Then, in a location near the Sands exhibition halls, The Sphere is in progress. That project, a partnership between Sands Corp. and Madison Square Garden Company, will be nothing short of dazzling with an 18,000-seat, futuristic-looking facility encased in a massive LED shell capable of shape-shifting into a globe or a tennis ball or any event symbol in concert with what’s happening inside.
The Sphere’s 170,000-square-foot LED exterior screen will be visible for miles. Massive interior screens, interior audio and olfaction technology will keep the special EFX coming as will haptic flooring systems that will create vibrations to match the moment.
Drew Las Vegas, a resort development of 3,719 rooms by Marriott International and real estate mogul Steve Witkoff, will become the Strip’s first JW Marriott in 2022. The 67-story indigo-hued glass tower located near the SLS (now The Sahara) and Circus Circus will offer 550,000 square feet of meeting, events, entertainment and convention space, a retail complex, restaurants and lounges, and a sizable pool deck.
That mid-strip area, currently empty fields and strip malls, will be seeing the lion’s share of hotel development over the next three years. Another planned mega-project that has been delayed by years and a succession of owners is Resorts World Las Vegas, slated to cater to Sin City’s Chinese and Chinese-American tourists.
Although that concept recently failed with the closing of the Lucky Dragon hotel and casino nearby, plans for the 3,000-room resort are a go. The $4 to $7 billion project sits on the 86-acre lot that was once the Stardust Hotel and casino. It was slated to become the Echelon in 2008 but was sold by Boyd Gaming to Malaysia’s Genting Group in 2013. A 2020 completion date is set, though some speculate that US trade tariff issues with China could once again steer the project off course.
Meanwhile, Downtown Las Vegas will be getting a boost from Circa. The $1 billion, 777-room new build is slated to open in December 2020 and, at 44 stories, the property stands to become the tallest Las Vegas hotel north of the Strip. It will contain the longest outdoor bar on Fremont Street, along with five restaurants and a bi-level casino.
Another hotel, The A.C. by Marriott, is in the design process for a $95 million, 406-room, six-story hotel to be built near the Downtown area in a complex that currently features a grand symphony hall, a professional fashion and furniture design mart, name-brand medical facilities (Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, and Cleveland Clinic), a $90 million, 315,000-square-foot expo venue, and one of the city’s most popular discount designer shopping complexes. An opening date for the new hotel and the expo space aims at the summer of 2020.
And as hotels and attractions open, the city is bringing in new business development with attractive incentives and plenty of space to build. A new $600 million Google data center will be opening in nearby Henderson in December 2020, as an example. And with the growth in convention bookings and the new sports buzz that is lighting up the city, Las Vegas is well prepared to grow with the times.
“Certainly, our new 65,000-seat stadium, which will be the home to the NFL’s Raiders franchise, is creating quite the buzz for Las Vegas. These developments also appeal to meeting and convention groups as there are many opportunities to attend events or viewing parties, tour state-of-the art facilities, and engage with athletes and professionals while in the destination,” says Schreiber.
“If you haven’t been to Las Vegas recently, you’ll be astounded,” he adds. “There are currently nearly $18 billion in investment projects planned through 2022, and there is always room for more.”